Tsuru Ton Tan
21 East 16th St
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 989-1000
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Cuisine: Noodle Shops/Bars
2nd Cuisine: Japanese
Area: East Village
Walking into Tsuru Ton Tan, a Japanese noodle shop occupying the former Union Square Cafe space, you are instantly greeted by a friendly waitstaff ready to cater to your every noodle need.
There are two long bars at the entrance, where you will probably land if dining alone or don't have reservations. The crowd is especially large early evenings between 6pm and 9pm, and on weekends when the line can stretch outside the door. The space is stunning with lots of brick and wood, with wall hangings, including one made of thick rope, and silver curtains hanging from the ceiling. There are some semi-priviate rooms available along with sharing tables. Lining the walls are huge soup bowls preparing you for what lies ahead.
You may want to start your meal with a cocktail. We tried the "The Oni Within," a powerful concoction of cucumber, shiso-infused sake, Ketel One, lime juice and garnished with a shiso leaf. The drink is refreshing and powerful, sort of like a Japanese martini.
Appetizers bring crispy cones stuffed with tuna tartare and layers of avocado cream. They're smooth, crunchy and delicious. Steamed shrimp dumplings arrived covered with slices of deep-fried garlic and hot sauce. Wagyu sushi (Yes, sushi made with beef) features paper thin slices of Wagyu perched atop sushi rice with a large dab of decadent uni.
Our server, a woman named Al, guided us through the soup selections spread across the menu. Clear, curry and creamy broths are combined with a number of things including duck, Wagyu, tempura shrimp and tofu. The udon, thick or thin, is made with flour imported from Japan. Soups can be purchased regular size or large at no extra cost. Either way, be prepared for a very large bowl of soup. Not feeling much like soup, I tried the Mentalko Caviar Udon. I really can't think of anything better than slurping up thick udon noodles laced creamy pink caviar and topped with thin cucumber slices for crunch.
Unable to squeeze in another bite, we didn't order dessert. But the one worth seeking out is a water cake that kinda looks like a jellyfish. It's served with two toppings; one filled with kuromitsu, a Japanese brown sugar syrup, and kinako powder made from roasted soy bean flour. It is served with a scoop of ice cream.
We loved our little adventure at Tsuru Ton Tan and hope for a return trip real soon.
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Review By: Thomas Rafael